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The United States assured Russia today that it would not seek the death penalty for any current or future charges against NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

In another positive, he also won’t be tortured.

“The United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States,” attorney general Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Russian authorities. “The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes.”

In the letter, which the Wall Street Journal obtained a copy of, Holder is attempting to convince his Russian counterpart to not provide political asylum to Snowden. Helpfully interpreting Russian law for the Russians, Holder says Snowden’s grounds for requesting asylum “are entirely without merit.”


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Snowden, of course, was the primary source of leaks about the NSA surveillance programs that spy on Americans — and the world — first via dozens, then thousands of American companies. The revelations galvanized nationwide protests that were heard loud and clear in Washington, where an amendment to de-fund the NSA surveillance programs almost passed in the House just two days ago.

Snowden first sought refuge in Hong Kong, and there was speculation that he would seek refuge in a South American country. Iceland’s Pirate Party agitated for that country to offer Snowden asylum, but it was denied.

Russia could be a good option for Snowden, as it has the political clout — and sometimes will — to defy the U.S. government, which wants Snowden back, and has been exerting considerable pressure on nations to not accept him.

“He is eligible for a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States,” Holder wrote. “The United States is willing to immediately issue such a passport to Mr. Snowden.”

That passport comes with a no kill, no torture guarantee. How tempting.

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